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Friday
Jan202017

Podcast #775: Audioengine HD3 Powered Bookshelf Speakers

We listen to so much audio sitting at our computers, whether it be a Youtube video, your music library, or watching something on Netflix, we may as well have some nice speakers to listen on. Sure you can buy bookshelf speakers and hook up an amp and then you need to find room on your desk to fit everything. Or you can buy some speakers designed for the desktop with an amp built in. They range from junk to really good. Read that as cheap to expensive.

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Audioengine HD3 Powered Bookshelf Speakers

We listen to so much audio sitting at our computers, whether it be a Youtube video, your music library, or watching something on Netflix, we may as well have some nice speakers to listen on. Sure you can buy bookshelf speakers and hook up an amp and then you need to find room on your desk to fit everything. Or you can buy some speakers designed for the desktop with an amp built in. They range from junk to really good. Read that as cheap to expensive.

But if you want small powered speakers that sound good, really good, take at look at the Audioengine HD3 (Buy Now $399) speakers that were recently introduced.

Features:

  • High-fidelity Bluetooth® with aptX®, extended range and simplified setup
  • USB audio input
  • Dual analog audio inputs and a full-range variable output
  • Custom Kevlar woofers and silk tweeters
  • Hand-built cabinets with furniture-grade finishes
  • Detachable magnetic speaker grills
  • Threaded brass inserts to secure speakers to floorstands

 

We have always been impressed with Audioengine products and the HD3 is no exception. They are truly well built. The fit and finish are first rate. They are made out of .7 inch (18mm) MDF with real Walnut or Cherry veneer or Satin Black. The amplified speaker weighs 4lbs (1.8Kg) and the passive speaker weighs 3.4lbs (1.5Kg). Each speaker measures 7”(H) x 4.25”(W) x 5.5”(D) so they will easily fit on your desk.

Audioengine includes everything you need to get up and going in the box. Of course there is power cables but they also include speaker cables pre-fitted with high quality banana plugs,  and 3.5mm audio cables. There is also a Micro USB cable to connect directly to your computer or mobile device. For our testing we used the USB and Bluetooth connections.

One of the big selling points of the HD3 is that it's Bluetooth supports AptX technology. AptX is a compression codec that is highly efficient which allows for higher quality audio as well as lower latency. We listened to music that was ripped with Apple Lossless or 256Kbps AAC.  

For those who connect directly through their computer’s USB port, Audioengine has essentially taken their audiophile grade 24 bit D1 DAC (only 48Khz vs 96Khz input for D1) and put it into the HD3. So you can go directly from your computer to your speakers in the digital domain with the highest quality possible. Audioengine has put a lot of technology into these speakers resulting in a higher signal to noise ratio with lower distortion that will reward the listener who uses the USB connection over Bluetooth. The HD3s also have an extended range that allowed us to move throughout the house without any audio dropouts.

Finally, if you want to to be respectful of your co-workers or family members within earshot of the HD3s, there is a headphone jack built into the front of the powered (left) speaker. Audioengine says the amp is able to provide low-impedance, high-fidelity audio and a 2-volt output which will drive a wide range of headphones.

Performance


Before we did any critical listening we let these speakers break in. It is recommended that you play music at low levels for at least 24 hours and then gradually increase the levels for another 24. It seems like a pain but you will notice a huge difference after listening on speakers that have properly broken in.

Being a desktop setup we lowered our expectations a little. Audioengine makes great speakers but how much sound could they get out of such a small package? The answer is a lot! First we focused on songs with a lot of bass to test what we thought was going to be a limitation of the HD3. We were pleasantly surprised by how low these speakers can go. The HD3 is ported along the bottom front of the speaker to extend the bass and when we listened to “Sexy and I know it” by LMFAO we were treated to a cool breeze from all the air that driver was moving. The result was some decent low end thump. The specification says the speakers can go as low as 65 Hz which is really good for such small speakers.

There is a bass reduction switch that limits the amount of bass to 100 Hz. We activated it on Tin Pan Alley by Stevie Ray Vaughn and immediately noticed the bass tighten up. It also softened up to the point of losing its punch. You may like this feature but for us we prefered the booming full effect so for the remainder of our listening we turned this feature off.

To test the mids and highs we some BB King. His Guitar sounded precise, warm, and fluid depending on the song. His voice sounded full and textured. We can easily see working on a project at your computer and listening to the HD3 being a perfect combination

Then we listened to some modern “loud” music. Some Swedish House Mafia, Icona Pop, and Imagine Dragons. All songs that we have listened to in the past and enjoy. The results were OK. The audio just kind of got muddy and it was hard to zero in on specific sounds. We know that’s how some of this music is mastered but larger speakers were able to deal with it better. Lowering the volume helped though.

We did the above tests with both the USB and Bluetooth (AptX) connections. While AptX did sound very good the USB connection was clearly better. We did not use an analog connection as we felt it would not highlight the capabilities of these speakers. We also watched some movies with the speakers and felt it was good. The dialog was clear and there was good separation but the bass was definitely missing. If you are going to watch a lot of movies you may want to consider a subwoofer.  We don’t recommend these speakers for TVs because what sets these apart from the Audioengine A2+ is the DAC and Bluetooth. So you would be spending more money and not necessarily getting the benefits. If you do want better speakers for your TV we would say go with the less expensive A2+ (Buy Now $249)


Conclusion

The Audioengine HD3 desktop speakers are a must have for anyone who is particular about the quality of their music and doesn’t want a massive speaker setup on their desk. Listen from your mobile device via Bluetooth or from your PC via USB and you will be rewarded with a musical experience that you used to only get from speakers costing hundreds of dollars more.

 

 

Download Episode #775

Reader Comments (1)

Ha-ha, Braden: this week's jokes (rain in California... a closet for Clark Kent) are just as mature and funny as that time you said "Alexa, turn the lights off".
Grow the hell up ! Quality of the podcast as been steadily declining in the past 6 months and this is not helping!

January 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterFabDex

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